Release the ‘Hounds

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UConn coach Kevin Ollie instructs his players in Monday’s practice.

UConn is getting ready for what could be a pretty good dogfight. Loyola (Md.) is headed to Hartford for a clash of unbeatens Tuesday night.

It’s not quite UConn-Indiana from Friday but Loyola looks like it could give the Huskies a game.

— LOYOLA (Md.) IS UNBEATEN like UConn but all four of its wins have come by seven points or less and two of its games have gone to overtime.

In its last game Loyola was down 17 points (58-41) to UMBC with 9:44 to play in regulation but somehow came back to win 89-83 in overtime.

“We give every team respect. But they haven’t played the teams we’ve played. They wouldn’t be undefeated if they did,” UConn guard Shabazz Napier said. “But they’ve got some good players on their side. They’re going to come here wanting to beat us. They want to stay undefeated just like we do.”

Loyola’s Dylon Cormier is averaging 29.8 points per game, the third-best average in the nation behind only Oregon State’s Roberto Nelson and Niagara’s Antoine Mason.

His season LOW is 20 points.

“He presents a big-time challenge for him. We have to be able to play him, move our feet,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “But it’s just not Bazz or Boatright. It’s going to take a team effort to stop him.”

— THE HUSKIES HAVE been pretty good at avoiding letdowns. The big win over Indiana Friday night, they say, won’t impact Tuesday’s affair.

“We come into every game and we don’t really think about what happened last game,” Napier said. “Coach kind of makes it a big point of emphasis.

“I don’t think we ever think ‘Oh, we beat so-and-so, now we’ve got a mid-major team and we should be able to beat them. We don’t think like that,” Napier said. “We come on the court and we’re ready to play.”

— LOYOLA IS COACHED by G.G. Smith, son of Tubby, and he’s unbeaten as a head coach. It’s his first season, of course. He took over for Jimmy Patsos in the offseason.

Loyola, like one of UConn’s previous opponents this season (Boston U.), is making its debut in the Patriot League this season.

— IF YOU DIDN’T hear yet, Napier was named AAC player of the week Monday. He averaged 23.5 points in UConn wins over Indiana and Boston College.

— UCONN MOVED UP five spots to No. 13 in the latest Associated Press rankings.

— PLENTY OF TALK about Rodney Purvis’ role on the team. The N.C. State transfer, who is sitting out this season, has been a key cog it seems.

“He’s back here (on campus) freezing when we’re winning a championship at Madison Square Garden, I know it hurts,” Ollie said. “It hurt us to see Selection Sunday last year when we couldn’t go to the NCAA Tournament. What you have to do is continue to get better and I told him when that curtain opens in 2014 you have to be better.”

Purvis has been playing the role of the opponents’ top gun very well.

“We couldn’t find anybody like him. He’s a big-time basketball player. And he has the green light. I tell him to shoot every time,” Ollie said of Purvis’ role on the scout team. “With that he’s getting more confidence and he’s putting pressure on the defensive team we have out there trying to stop those plays.”

Purvis is trying to make the most of his “down” time.

“Not to many guys get a chance to go against a like Ryan Boatright and a guy like Shabazz Napier every day in practice,” Purvis said. “It’s only getting me better.”

Neill

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About Neill

Neill Ostrout covers the UConn men's basketball team for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester. He has been a member of the "Horde" for more than 16 years.
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